This movie is one of the all-time classics of Hong Kong cinema. It’s a tragic urban love story that’s strong enough to make Romeo and Juliet pack up their bat and ball and go home. Andy Lau, as Wah Dee, the young triad member, showed here that he was more than just a matinee idol. Wu Sien Lien, as Jo Jo, is luminous and innocent.
Although the film shows its age in some of the earlier scenes, and things like clothes and cars, the story is powerful and the acting disturbingly good. Lau and Wu have a rivetting chemistry as the troubled lovers, and Ng Man Tat, frequent sidekick of Stephen Chiau Sing Chi, acts his heart out as the lowly triad member who seems to be Wah Dee’s only true friend. He did so well in this heart-wrenching role that he won the Best Supporting Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
In fact, all the roles are heart-wrenching: Wah Dee’s character in particular is finely nuanced. He’s been raised by a trio of garrulous aunties, who are former club girls and friends of his deceased mother. He is trying to make his way in the triad world, be loyal to his boss, and deal with the numerous lowlives who populate the underworld. No soft-focus romantic hero he: the harshness of his world reflect in his dangerous past-times and flashes of temper.
Jo Jo’s response to that temper is atypical, and this is one of the factors that sets this film apart. She laboriously tidies and cleans his dingy rooftop flat, and, when he returns and smashes things up in a drunken temper, she silently does it all over again while he sleeps. Now I’m not suggesting that domestic subservience is a good idea, but the mood of the film clearly conveys that she knows she’s not threatened, and she understands and accepts him as he is.
This film has entered into Hong Kong movie legend, with a multitude of other films offering brief homages: two that spring to mind are Needing You and Feel 100%. If you aim to watch all of the important Hong Kong films, this will be on your list.